Trail Test - Trek Superfly 100 AL Pro
The downtube on the Superfly reads ‘Trek’, but the Superfly is the child of mountain bike father figure Gary Fisher. Look further at the decals and you’ll find a ‘Gary Fisher Collection’ on there too. The free spirited Californian pioneer and the vanilla safe Wisconsin bike maker form a fearsome blend of innovation and experimentation combined with mass market R&D and purchasing budgets.
The vital stats on the Superfly 100 are pretty commonplace stuff; alloy frame, 110mm of travel at the back and 100mm up front supported by Fox dampers, and Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes. It’s all durable, functional and offers fantastic trail performance and the price isn’t astronomical. This is the sort of bike that dealers pit brand-against-brand on a daily basis, so to be successful Trek needs to add their own special flavour to the equation.
Way back in the day before long-travel trail bikes Gary Fisher came up with one of his best known design concepts; called ‘Genesis Geometry’ it paired a long top tube with a short stem (for the period). This gave the bikes the right cockpit length, a long front centre for descending stability and the short stem kept handling snappy. Fast forward to the present day and this set-up is only just becoming the norm in new-school trail bike design. Mr Fisher is a great thinker and was well ahead of his time with the original Genesis Geometry—not to mention 29-inch wheels, oversized headsets, dual suspension trail bikes with disc brakes and so on…
The Superfly 100 makes use of Fisher’s G2 (Genesis 2) geometry, which uses a fork with more offset to reduce the axle trail. Developed specifically for their 29-inch wheeled bikes it aims to produce responsive steering, without resorting to the use of a particularly steep head angle. Steep head angles are all well and good but they can make you feel like you’re too far over the front during steep descents and lead to a sketchy ride.
With all of Gary’s handling tricks aboard it’s time for Trek to add their goodies to the Superfly basket in the form of the Active Braking Pivot (ABP). This is a Trek developed suspension system that is used on all of their duallies. The ABP design does not pivot on the seat stay or the chainstay but instead pivots around the rear axle, and as the name suggests, it aims to keep the suspension active and neutral when the anchors are on.
The ABP system also adds a small degree of complexity, as the pivot bearing has to allow the wheel axle to pass through its centre (on most bikes the suspension pivot is completely separate from the wheel axle). Trek uses large bearings and some specially made nuts and axles to pull off the ABP system, and in practice the only drawback is that the derailleur hanger is integrated with one of the pivot axles. This means trailside replacement requires an open-ended spanner—I don’t know what multi-tool you ride with, but this spanner is not on it, trust me!
For 2012 Trek has adopted the increasingly popular 142 x 12mm rear axle standard on the Superfly 100. Trek suggests that this change has increased stiffness by 35%. The back end of the Superfly feels extremely solid, whether it’s the thru-axle or something else it doesn’t really matter as it just works. If ever there was a standard made to work with the ABP design is must be this one. The thru-axle has to be removed to take out the wheel, which is also the case with ABP bikes that use a conventional quick release. What would be seen as a hassle with a quick release wheel is simply expected with a 142 x 12mm equipped bike. The axle employed by Trek uses RockShox’s patented Maxle lever which is very simple to use, so there’s no need to worry—if anything it’s easier than a traditional quick release wheel. It’s also worth noting that Trek also offers adaptors for those who have existing 135mm quick release wheels that they may want to use—handy if you’ve already invested in a gun set of race wheels.
This review of the axle standards and compatibility is worthwhile, as prospective owners could well be looking for an upgrade in this department. The Trek ships with Bontrager Race Lite TLR wheels, which Trek have stickered up to perfectly match the graphics on the rest of the bike. They make for a super slick looking final package, but compared to the rest of the bike, the wheels are definitely the weakest link. The Superfly is a capable machine and deserves a set of wheels that are stiffer or lighter, or preferably both, to get the best out of it.
When pushed hard the 28-spoke Race Lites feel springy rather than taut and would surely benefit from a few extra spokes, as 32-spoke wheels tend to produce a much stiffer feel. As it is the Race Lites aren’t particularly svelte (almost 1,900g per pair), so they miss the mark a little on both performance factors. The hubs are decent sealed bearing units and the rims are designed for conversion to tubeless, so these wheels have some really good features. While they didn’t give us any troubles, the Superfly could get a big performance boost from the right wheel upgrade. Pencil it in for a Christmas or birthday perhaps.
Other than Fox and Shimano, everything else bolted to the Superfly is from Trek’s in-house Bontrager brand. The bars are nice and wide, the saddle comfy and not too wide. Of particular mention should be the 29-1 Team tyres, which are light and fast rolling. These tyres give the Superfly a sprightly feel on firm trails and help it glide along with little fuss. They are a great option as race day or marathon tread and are offered aftermarket in case you want to check them out. Although they are marked as a 2.2 size, their volume isn’t all that big and the knobs have a low profile. As a result they get a little out of their depth once the trail surface gets loose, but in the right conditions they’re a comfy pair of shoes.